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PRESS RELEASE: Environmental Health Trust Charges Federal Communications Commission with Stonewalling Freedom Of Information Act Request

Apr 6, 2011


Washington, DC — April 6, 2011 – Environmental Health Trust (EHT), a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying and controlling environmental health hazards, has filed an appeal to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the FCC’s refusal to disclose documents solicited by EHT on January 5, 2011 under the Freedom Of Information Act. The appeal was filed on EHT’s behalf by the Washington, DC-based law firm Swankin & Turner.

In September 2009, the FCC abruptly removed advice on its website regarding the purchase of lower-SAR (specific absorption rate) cell phones. Additionally, although the FCC site continued to list steps that individuals can take to reduce their exposure to cell phone radiation, the FCC began at this time to preface these tips with the following disclaimer: “The FCC does not endorse the need for these practices…” Subsequently, EHT filed a formal request to the FCC for copies of all correspondence leading to these changes to its website. However, the FCC did not supply the requested information.

EHT believes the FCC is stonewalling the FOIA request it filed in January. This FOIA filing requested in part, “any document received or generated by any party acting under contract with the FCC to perform any work pertaining to cellular telephone policy and SAR, which document(s) authenticate, reflect, or embody communication between the FCC and the CTIA-the Wireless Association employee, lobbyist or consultant,” and specifically requested “all correspondence and information as to who requested the changes to the FCC website and the dates the changes were requested and the dates the changes were made and who at the FCC made the changes.”

The FCC’s response on March 3, 2011 said in part, “We are withholding…draft versions of two fact sheets and internal email regarding the revisions.”

L. Lloyd Morgan, Senior Research Fellow for EHT, said, “It would appear that the FCC does not want to disclose its possible involvement with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). Nor does the FCC seem eager to shed light on something else: the CTIA’s apparent desire to have the FCC’s web pages dovetail to the CTIA’s own assertions [regarding cell phone safety] in their July 17 lawsuit against the City of San Francisco’s Right To Know ordinance.”

James Turner, attorney-of-record for EHT, added, “The FCC has withheld information the law requires it to release. This appeal allows the agency to correct its error before the courts have to do it.”

Devra Lee Davis, PhD, MPH, President of Environmental Health Trust, said, “Democracy is imperiled when the government withholds information from the public about our basic health and safety. The FCC has a duty to explain what’s behind the agency’s sudden about-face regarding cell phone safety. We call on the FCC to do the right thing.”

For more details about the events leading up to EHT’s initial FOIA request, please visit: